RALEIGH — Under a new state law, a person is not eligible to serve as a sheriff in North Carolina if they have been convicted of a felony, even if they’ve completed their sentence or had the conviction expunged from their record.
Before the law was passed, a person was not prohibited from election as sheriff if their felony had been expunged. A person who receives an unconditional pardon of innocence for their felony may file for the office of sheriff or be appointed to that office.
“The North Carolina Legislature understood and corrected the statute following a loophole that occurred during the last election cycle (2018),” Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman said. “In my opinion, this legislation assures that the citizens of North Carolina may continue to maintain a high level of trust, integrity, morality and ethical standards that the Office of Sheriff currently exhibits in all 100 counties.”
The full law can be found at tinyurl.com/ybx8h5au.
Hagaman said the legislative committee of the NC Sheriffs’ Association, which he co-chairs, the executive committee of the NC Sheriffs’ Association, and the executive director and legal counsel of the NC Sheriffs’ Association all worked with the General Assembly members to correct the loophole.
The law, which takes effect Oct. 1, also removes the requirement that a candidate for sheriff be a resident of the county for at least a year before the general election.
“Individuals wanting to file for the office of sheriff should be diligent in following the new rules set by state law,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board. “We will work with county boards of elections to ensure qualifications are met.”
The law requires a candidate or appointee for the office of sheriff to file a disclosure statement prepared by the North Carolina Sheriff’s Education and Training Standards Commission verifying that the candidate or appointee has no prior felony convictions or expungements of felony convictions.
As part of the process for completing the disclosure statement, the commission must conduct a criminal background check. The disclosure statement and supporting documentation will not be public record.
The person filing for sheriff must give the disclosure statement to their county board of elections when they file. The filing process is not complete until a person submits the disclosure statement.
The disclosure statement is valid for filing for 90 days after issuance. Individuals intending to file for sheriff during the December 2021 filing period must submit the disclosure statement.